Audit of St. Louis County found inadequate oversight enabled Steve Stenger to abuse power

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.- Inadequate oversight is being blamed on enabling former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and his appointees to abuse their positions. That’s the finding in a new report released by State Auditor Nicole Galloway. 

The report says Stenger, who resigned and went to jail for his role in the pay-to-play scheme, manipulated contract and procurement processes. 

The audit was requested by St. Louis County Council in 2019 and looked at the St. Louis County government and the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership (SLEDP). 

The report also says the former SLEDP CEO Shelia Sweeney oversaw payment of large, unauthorized bonuses to herself and others. She also has been convicted on federal charges. 

Auditor Galloway says inadequate oversight by the County Council and SLPEDP Board enabled the fraud to happen. 

“Steve Stenger used his position to his personal and political advantage and abused taxpayer dollars. That scheme rightly resulted in prison time and heavy fines for him, Sheila Sweeney and others,” Auditor Galloway said in a press release. 

Galloway says the county must take action to ensure that the appropriate safeguards are in place for the future.

The audit found Stenger held several contracts that had been approved by the County Council for as long as eight months before signing them. Galloway says that means projects were often delayed and contractors and federal funding were lost. 

The audit said significant weaknesses in the county charter and ordinances, as well as inadequate oversight from the county council, enabled that to happen. 

The report also accuses Stenger of adding his staffers to committees that selected contractors to ensure certain contractors were selected. He is also accused of circumventing normal procedures for leasing county office space from developers who contributed to his political campaign. 

The audit also found that due to a lack of due diligence by the County Council, Stenger committed to a 20-year lease that is expected to cost $67 million dollars over the lease term. 

The report also says the County Auditor position has been ineffective in providing oversight of county operations. 

You can read the entire audit here.

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